Friday, November 4, 2011

Conversation with Dad

Several years ago my father passed away. The number of years really doesn’t matter. He is still very much alive in my memories.

I wish I could say this was an idea I came up with, but it wasn’t. I was first introduced to this concept when I read Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter House Five.

When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is 'So it goes.' (2.7.3)

I had such a difficult time coming to terms with my father’s death that I adopted this mind set. I don’t take it to the extremes that the main character (Billy) does, but I like the idea of having our loved ones with us all of the time.

This particular conversation took place while I was helping Dad rebuild a lawnmower engine. By help I mean he told me what to do and I did it. The subject was a reoccurring theme. He was telling me how stupid he was because he only had a 9th grade education.

After saying this he took the wrench from my hand “No you have to do it like this. See?” I had been fighting with that task for 3 minutes. He finished the task (and made it look easy) in about 10 seconds.

Dad then began telling me how much smarter I was than him. I had a high school diploma and a college degree. I worked on computers (in his mind this made me a lot smarter than him).

Me: “Oh, Jesus Christ Dad. If you are dumb, then you are the smartest dumb person I’ve ever met!”

Dad: “What?”

Me: “Look. I fix computers. You fix small engines (as a hobby). I’m just a different kind of mechanic. Do you want to know what the biggest difference between us is?”

Dad: “No. What?”

Me: “When you fix an engine it usually works better when you are done. When I fix a computer there is a 50/50 chance that I’ll have to scrap the whole damn thing.”

At the time this was the truth. Dad got a good laugh out of that. Since then my fix/trash ratio has improved. He was also pretty good about not calling himself dumb after that.

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